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The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory

The King's Curse (2014)

by Philippa Gregory

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Margaret Pole is heir to the Plantagenet line, a dangerous inheritance in Tudor England, for the Plantagenets are the true heirs to the throne. Henry VII was a paranoid king, and imprisoned or killed any Plantagenet heirs he could, in order to secure his throne. Because Margaret is married to the governor of Wales, she is safe, for a time, and becomes the guardian of Arthur, Prince of Wales. But when the prince dies, and his bride, Katherine of Aragon, sets her sights on marrying Arthur's brother Henry, Margaret chooses the wrong side of the issue and is shunned from court, casting her and her sons into poverty. As she works to regain the favor of the king, and to have her titles and fortunes restored to her, Katherine wins her bid to become the next Queen of England. And Margaret wins back her place at court, becoming a lady-in-waiting to the lovely Spanish queen, which also gives her a front-row seat to watch the queen's downfall for Henry VIII's new love, Anne Boleyn. Through four queens, we see the events unfold from Margaret's perspective, until she infuriates the wrong people one too many times. The King's Curse is another excellent book by Phillipa Gregory. She writes her stories so well, I feel like I am in the time with the characters. This was an interesting point of view for me; I liked that Margaret was connected to the court, but not there all the time. We get to see the court and all of its intrigue, but also get to see some of what goes on when the nobles are not at court. I also always appreciate that Gregory chooses women, and strong women, to narrate her tales; women definitely had a different role in the 1400-1500s, but there were some strong women then who need the spotlight. Those strong women often got in trouble, as we see in this novel, but their stories still need to be told. Rich details and the court life drew me in to this great story. ( )
  litgirl29 | Jul 14, 2015 |
Excellent, as always for this author. I listened on CD. I also enjoyed the author note at the end, explaining her "take" on Margaret Pole's life.
( )
  mfdavis | May 20, 2015 |
This is the sixth book and conclusion of the Cousins’ War series, revolving around the feud between the York and Tudor branches of the royal family in England. This book is told from the perspective of Margaret of York, cousin to the late queen Elizabeth of York, who was the wife of Henry VII. Now it is Henry VIII who is taking the throne and Margaret witnesses his reign as both friend and enemy as Henry grows from boy to man and changes the foundation of royalty and the church.

I won’t say too much about this book, as it’s the last book in the series and if you haven’t read the others, this probably doesn’t interest you. But once again, Gregory has written a phenomenal book and I was hooked from page one. I love how she writes her female protagonists and Margaret may be one of my favorite voices in this series. Throughout this series, I’ve always sided with the Yorks (Plantaganets? I’ll admit, the family tree confuses me somewhat) and I think Margaret’s struggle to stay on the good side of the king and support her family was touching.

The end of this book (and series) actually brought a few tears to my eyes and renewed my love for Gregory’s work. I wish I had time to reread her other works. I’m already a huge fan of this series and her work, and I will continue to be a fan. If you’re interested in Henry VIII and his predecessors and you like historical fiction, check out this series – book one is The White Queen. ( )
  MillieHennessy | May 17, 2015 |
I have enjoyed the whole series, but this was the best yet. The portrayal of Henry VIII's psychology is brilliantly done, and the developing sense of paranoia and menace is chilling. Some years ago I read Simon Sebag Montefiore's 'The Court of the Red Czar'. Reading 'The King's Curse' brought back the experience of reading that brilliantly written but deeply upsetting book, and the parallels with Stalin became stronger page by page. Some have complained of the abruptness of the book's ending, but when written in the first person how else could it have ended? This simply brought home to me the sheer waste of human life and energy. ( )
  ChrisSterry | Apr 14, 2015 |
I didn't realize there was going to be a sixth book in Philippa Gregory's Cousins' War series, about the royal women of the War of the Roses. This book is about Margaret Pole, a first cousin of Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII and the subject of the fifth book in the series. The White Princess. Margaret Beaufort, Henry's mother and the subject of the second book in the series, The Red Queen, is also a character in this book.

Despite its length (597 pages in print), and Gregory's ongoing problems with frequent and unnecessary repetition of the full names and titles of characters in conversations (which would not happen in real life), as well as "She shrugs" and "He nods" and variations thereof, I liked this book better than the last two in the series. Margaret Pole is much more interesting than either Elizabeth of York or Anne Neville (The Kingmaker's Daughter, book four), who were rather passive characters.

Because Margaret Pole lived such a long life (1473-1541), her life also intersects with Henry VIII and his first three wives. She's especially loyal to Catherine of Aragon and her daughter, Mary Tudor. Margaret is also a devout Catholic who, along with her three surviving sons, is upset with Henry VIII for his persecution of the Church. Along with the fact she has royal blood and her sons are potential rivals for the throne, Margaret has more than enough in her life to arouse the suspicions of the king. She manages to do so, more or less, for her first 65 years.

Gregory's four-page author's note at the end of the book explains some suppositions for her fiction and purports an interesting theory about Henry VIII's degeneration and the loss of so many Tudor babies. I was also surprised to learn that Margaret Pole was beatified as a martyr for the Catholic Church.

The print version also includes an eight-page bibliography of five-plus pages, two maps, and two family trees, one at the book's beginning dated 1499 (where the story begins) and another at the end dated 1541 (when the story ends). I wish the latter had gone ahead and included post 1541 death dates for those still alive when Margaret was executed. I would have liked to have known how long her three surviving children lived beyond her death, without having to look them up.

The audiobook doesn't have the bibliography, maps, or charts, although they could have been easily added as a PDF file. The story is told in first-person by Margaret, and is read by South African actress and audiobook veteran Bianca Amato, who also does an excellent job creating a voice for Margaret that ages as she does.

© Amanda Pape - 2014

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my local public library. This review also appears on Bookin' It.] ( )
1 vote riofriotex | Dec 7, 2014 |
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The riveting story of Margaret Pole, daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, and was one of the few surviving members of the Plantagenet dynasty after the Wars of the Roses. Plantagenet, once carried proudly by Margaret like a crown upon her head, is now, at the end of the 15th century, the most dangerous name in England.… (more)

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